Tell Us What You Think

We welcome letter submissions that respond to our magazine articles. Letters should be 300 words or fewer. Please send them to magazine@amherst.edu or Box 5000, Amherst, MA, 01002.


The Moderna Era

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The front cover of the summer 2021 Amherst magazine showing a man wearing a white shirt in a modern lab

The College’s LinkedIn followers had much to say about the Summer 2021 cover story on Moderna president Stephen Hoge ’98.

Pat Amsbry P’22: Amazing story! Proud to be part of the Amherst College family, and a great testimonial for the value of a liberal arts undergraduate education. Stephen is clearly a brilliant guy, and I’d like to think the critical thinking skills and exposure to such a broad curriculum at Amherst had an impact on his journey.

Linda Fisher Curzon ’90, P’22: I have never been more captivated by reading my Amherst alumni magazine than when this story arrived in print this month. So proud of my fellow alum.

Jeff Schnack ’89: Fantastic work! Thank you, Stephen and your team! I also appreciate the integrity you have shown by opening up your patents. Just got my second Moderna shot here in Tokyo. Amherst pride!

Will Greene ’06: Awesome story. Always love to read about people who go out on a limb, take big risks with their career and win big!

Roger Coy ’75: More proud than ever to be an alum. Amherst College grads are continuing to make a difference in not just how we live but how we can live better.

Justin DiVenuta ’04: Extraordinary story! I particularly enjoyed reading the part about Stephen’s reaction to the clinical trials data readout. Congratulations to Stephen and the rest of the team at Moderna.

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A magazine spread with the title "The Moderna Era"


Women and the Nobel Prize

I’m writing to register my disappointment in the letter from Howard Junker ’61 (Summer 2021). I quickly became used to older men at homecoming telling me things like, “Amherst went downhill after they admitted women and got rid of frats” and “We had enough women around at Smith and Mount Holyoke; there was no need to let them in here.” It was disheartening, but I was generally able to dismiss those comments as the semi-drunken ramblings of old bigots.

To see that a letter has been published in our alumni magazine in 2021 in which someone posits that the lack of recent Nobel laureates might be a result of “the product [being] diluted” by the admission of women is beyond dispiriting—it’s also embarrassing. Amherst is reckoning with the fact that many students who are not cisgender, heterosexual, white men do not feel welcome on campus. Attitudes displayed in letters like this run counter to those efforts.

I can understand the desire to “not take sides,” which leads to letters like J.E. Frenett P’18’s being published, despite it being overwrought and largely off-topic. The “Nobel Club” question can be
answered with a very simple Google: the average age of Nobel laureates for all categories except Peace has been increasing steadily since the 1950s.

Could one argue that admitting women hurts the College’s chances for Nobel Prizes as they still are awarded overwhelmingly to men? Sure, but that’s not what Mr. Junker was doing. His letter was a really sour note right at the beginning of the magazine, and one that I know many women noticed.

Gudrun Juffer ’08
Chicago

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I just received the Summer 2021 issue and am horrified by two letters you printed. One, from J.E. Frenett P’18, has lots to say about Biden but nothing to say about the article he is nominally writing in about or about the subject of that article, Dan Cluchey ’08. Perhaps you felt the need to showcase conservative voices, but the point of the Voices section is to respond to the articles rather than to make political cases.

Vastly more disturbing, however, is the letter from Howard Junker ’61. He points out that Amherst’s Nobel laureates graduated before the school went coed and wonders if “the product has been diluted.” Are women not the real “product” of Amherst but merely an inferior filler that’s been added? What is the value exactly of that letter to the magazine, other than to enrage me and, I imagine, many of the women who sadly dumbed down the Fairest College for the golden boys it was built to promote?

I won’t detail the many historical and structural reasons that women have not been honored with as many Nobel Prizes as men (including their late entry to elite institutions of study, their disproportionate responsibility for labor in the home, the resistance of men in the upper echelons of academia to recognize and amplify their voices, etc.). I obviously could, but to me the more powerful point is personal: I deserve not to be regarded as an inferior product or to have my presence at the College treated as a degradation of the institution.

Sarah Greenspan ’02
Shrewsbury, Vt.

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I was appalled but not surprised by the sentiments expressed by Howard Junker ’61 in his letter. In 1976 I was a freshman in the “diluting” class of 1980. Sentiments like Mr. Junker’s were made clear to us from alumni and some professors at the time.

What shocked and nauseated me most was that the magazine would print such a misinformed and hateful letter. Amherst has produced 41 years of alumnae since that first class, with, at this point, many more graduates still living than from all earlier classes combined. What an insult to us all.

When my daughter was touring college campuses to which she had been admitted, we took a tour at Amherst (on a beautiful spring day in 2011). The tour guide was a very colorful young man who impressed me with his outward departure in presentation from what I would have considered your “typical” Amherst student. I remember thinking that the place had changed so much (for the better, in my opinion). As we climbed the path toward the War Memorial we passed some students. I was at the back of the tour group, and as I passed I heard them remark that they couldn’t believe they “let this guy” give tours of campus and that people would get the “wrong idea” of what Amherst was like. My heart sank, and I was relieved when my daughter chose to attend Swarthmore.

My heart sank again, yesterday, reading that letter.

Alice Talbot ’80
Santa Cruz, Calif.

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I am the spouse of a 1980 Amherst graduate, a member of the first class of women who arrived in 1976, many of whom endured sexism and resistance to their presence. The letter from Howard Junker ’61 implying that women such as my wife and all who followed “diluted” the “product” is a disgrace. It is founded on such poor judgment and faulty logic that it is unworthy of rebuttal, and I am shocked you printed it. It is a slap in the face to the thousands of women—and others—who have made Amherst proud since the years of white male privilege (and ignorance) Mr. Junker valorizes with his insult, an insult which reveals far more about his character and the nature of old Amherst than it does about, well, pretty much anything else.

Daniel Wirls
Santa Cruz, Calif.


A Memory of Dean Gifford

Dean of the Faculty Prosser Gifford (In Memory, Winter 2021) was a man of intellectual breadth, warmth and lordly nonchalance. For me, this became manifest while I was conveying student government budget minutiae and overwrought moralizing to him in 1968. With trepidation, I made an appointment to pry loose a long-pending, picayune matter for his decision. In his imposing Converse office, Dean Gifford went fishing, amidst the paper blizzard on his capacious desk, for my Student Council communiqué from months earlier. Against all odds, he found it. I summoned the courage to ask how he managed the multitude of faculty administrative matters with his undifferentiated stacks. Dean Gifford’s elegant response: “This system works wonders for me. You would be amazed how many problems solve themselves if you leave them in the stack long enough.”

Frederick Baron ’69
Palo Alto, Calif.